bumblebee in flight

Recently I’ve been having fun taking photos of insects in flight. It is difficult, but rewarding when it works.

You can buy fancy motion triggers, but I’m interested in techniques that use the normal equipment I usually carry. I’ve been using my Olympus E-M5 with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 and Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The best lesson I learned is to not chase the bugs. They are too erratic. Instead, I start by observing their flight patterns. Some insects repeatedly follow roughly the same path. I noticed this particularly in dragonflies and bumblebees. After a while, I found areas where the insects would frequently hover. Then I could get ready and hang out in that spot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I use auto focusing since I can’t react fast enough in this situation. Before the insect arrives, I make sure I am focused at roughly the right distance. My lenses can focus quickly, but they are much faster if they are already close to where they need to be.

The focus is more forgiving if you use a small aperture, but I usually go pretty wide, so I end up with a blurry background. Burst mode helps the likelihood of getting a good shot. I end up with a ton of photos, but it is worth it if I get a good one.

dragonfly in flight

The photo above didn’t have much color, so I converted it to black & white with Exposure. I tweaked the tone curve to bring out detail in the wings and added a slightly lumpy vignette.

I’m still learning how to do this without driving myself crazy. It is pretty frustrating to spend an hour and only get a few great shots. I’ll give you an update if I learn more lessons. If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!